Six on Saturday

Difficult to feel that there is an abundance of choice for this week’s Six on Saturday with the ground frozen, plants stopped in their tracks and newly emerging seeds looking regretful. Here in this garden a new bout of Winter isn’t welcome. The snowdrops are almost past their best; some of the hellebores are looking strained and much of the garden is pretty desolate. Nevertheless, I am determined not to miss a Six two Saturdays in a row – so here goes (with thanks to The Propagator).

Number 1 is Puschkinia ,  a new bulb for this year. Wasn’t sure I was going to like it in its emerging stage when the flowers looked as if they were going to be  too squat, but today in sun and cold it has grown into itself and looks satisfyingly fresh and starry, though it still has some growing to go.

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Not fully out, but already very pretty

Number 2 is the stalwart vinca which just pops up her and there along the back fence; today it has a couple of new blue flowers to look at the sun.

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Next, protected in the greenhouse from last night’s freeze,  are the newly emerging tips of my Havel peas, bought from Real Seeds and destined for the allotment. Am hoping to get organised enough to get  a continuous supply of peas this summer – Oskar is next for sowing. It is almost certain that all of them will be eaten fresh from the pod and not make the pot.

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Fourth is the plant which has given me the most joy this Winter – the winter flowering honeysuckle. It certainly doesn’t look showstopping, but its scent stops me in my tracks almost every day. The bees luxuriate in it too.

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Fifth might have appeared before so apologies, but am surprised, considering their neglect, to have so many small penstemon plants growing healthily from cuttings. This one is Alice Hindley.

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Last is the reappearing tarragon. Shoved in the greenhouse over winter it is coming back tender and green.

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So that was my six and once I started looking of course there was a lot more going on than I thought.

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Six on Saturday

Ok, I’ll admit it straightaway – this is probably a bit of a cheat, but in my defence this week I have either been ill, or working and today I am off on a trip. So here is something that is gardening related, but not directly about my garden. My Six on Saturday is about  what have been some of my best gardening learning experiences to date. Lets hope the meme leader, The Propagator, doesn’t think this is going too far off the gardening path.

Even when I was working all hours and family was full on and I had an uncontrolled garden and a weed filled allotment as well as an undeveloped plot , I still found time to sneak off somewhere now and again to learn how to garden better. Sometimes that might be just upstairs with a book  and other times it would be 200 odd miles away to a course or a garden visit.

1.In my early days of gardening it was Sarah Raven’s Perch Hill that I was drawn to again and again. First to morning courses on growing vegetables or cooking them or growing flowers for cutting and often for Open Days and once or twice (because then I could afford it) for the indulgence of a whole day’s course. Getting there takes over two hours, but I  always found it worth it.  As a teacher, I am probably more than usually critical about people who are teaching me, (though I realise this isn’t a particularly positive trait). Sarah Raven, as I found out straightaway, is a brilliant teacher and, as with all excellent teachers, it is hard to exactly pin down exactly what she does to be so completely engaging.

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Dark (Sarah Raven influenced) dahlias

2. Equally and consistently excellent are the workshops and classes at, the more local to me, Green and Gorgeous. A flower farm with all the flowers I love grown expertly, it is also  a wonderful place to learn about propagating, growing and arranging flowers with Rachel Seigfried a generous and inspiring teacher.


An abundance of blue at Green and Gorgeous

3.Sometimes, just visiting a place can give you inspiration and if you live near Worton Farm in Oxfordshire, just a few minutes walking around will give you a bag full of ideas about growing.

4. My absolutely favourite  book on propagation is Carol Klein’s ‘Grow Your Own Garden’ which is reassuring,  clear and authoritative.


5. A very different and still completely wonderful book is ‘The Morville Hours’ by Katherine Swift which in graceful prose taught me that gardening as an obsessive delight  is not quite as unusual as I thought.

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6. And last of all is, not a book nor a blog, but my very lively and loyal gardening buddy who, unlike me, has lots of RHS qualifications to their name. Gardening therapy is the term we have taken to giving to our (at least) weekly, intense discussions over wine or coffee.

Next week, even if it still feels too cold to go outside,  there will be a six very firmly grounded in the garden.

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Examining the Plot

Just like the allotment, I have found it too easy to forget the plot.  It seems I have been in almost total gardening hibernation since November, apart from the odd hour here and there pottering in the greenhouse and digging up leeks from their clay bed at the allotment.

Definitely no pretty pictures from today with this post as apart from the nettles which do look perky with new growth, there is very little else showing at the plot. Though, the  sturdy pittosporums, both variegated and fresh green, are looking resilient, totally unaffected by Winter’s cold and wet. Shiny and healthily lovely in the gloom, they are waiting for something else to come back and join them. And amidst the fallen debris of last year’s annuals, there are a few small beaks of tulips opening up and some narcissi with a hint of bud. But everywhere else it is about decay and cold earth. Of course, there is hope that there are perennials biding their time under the surface just waiting for warmth. A little like me.

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Six on Saturday

So now it is February and there have been some piercingly bright days slicing the grey and the gloom. The light is lasting for longer and although the nights have gone back to cold and some mornings to frosty, seed sowing now seems more justifiable. In the only very faintly heated greenhouse the cuttings and seedlings which seemed to have been  holding their breath dormant for months are now gradually breaking into life:  putting on fresh green growth and shoving white roots vigorously through the bottom of their pots. Increasingly difficult now  to ignore the seedlings which are elbowing each other in their overcrowded trays.

First of all and starting in the shelter of the greenhouse, there is optimism in the survivors from last Autumn’s propagation workshop at Derry Watkins’ Special Plants.Yes, the pelargonium cuttings have been under attack from the tiny slugs sheltering out of sight under the lip of the pots, but they still seem robust enough.


Second are the the Jamaican Primrose cuttings, taken from Derry’s garden on a wet and windy Autumn afternoon, which are definitely outgrowing their pots. Just hope they can keep this up until some warmth creeps back.

Next are the Thalictrum seedlings which are unfurling their fresh greenness very prettily.


Number 4 (and last in a quick final look round the greenhouse highlights) are the unexpectedly healthy looking cuttings taken from Salvia nachtvlinder – perhaps the most loved out of my many loved (but often neglected) salvias.


Outside the  door, entirely exposed to the worst of all the weather are some of the autumn planted cornflowers – blue, black or lacking a label. Probably should be potted on or out, but for now they are marooned there waiting.


And 6 can be the lovely fat buds growing on the clematis around the apple tree at the end of the garden which have survived the dog’s raids on the squirrels.


Not a day for being outside with its mean, bleak mizzle. Or even inside the cold greenhouse. Better to light a fire and catch up on everyone else’s Six on Saturday – thanks to The Propagator.

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Six on Saturday

Sometimes, and I would argue often, the minutes (adding up to hours) I spend on social media lead me down interesting paths to long articles and quick insights. For example, last weekend when it was raining without stop and even snowing for a morning and I was twiddling round on twitter and Instagram, I came across #SixonSaturday. As well as reminding me of one of my favourite (and brilliantly written) gardening blogs: Off The Edge Gardening  it lead me to a new source to feed my propagating addiction: The Propagator  This is the blogger who came up with the idea of the six on a Saturday. So to give some structure to my random blogging, I’m going to try to add my six to the mix for as many weeks as I can manage.

The first out of the six to come to mind,  are the perfect miniature iris reticulata, Pauline. Planted too late for Christmas, but now coming all at once and too early for the market where I sometimes sell my extras. So we will just have to enjoy them ourselves inside and outside the house. And I can enjoy them a lot now. Years ago, when I wasn’t so desperate for Spring or so preoccupied with gardening, I found them a little odd – a bit stunted, but now I am convinced, especially when they pop their perfection through cold Winter soil.


Iris reticulata – inside for a closer look

Second in the list of positives are the pale green tentative shoots of the germinating sweet pea seeds which look so delicate, but in fact are resilient- useful with my tendency for random neglect.



Third up are the snowdrops just outside the kitchen window which are resistant to the cold, snow and rain and keep on appearing. Hopeful.


Fourth is the next source of loveliness – the original and self seeded hellebores, mostly in different shades of white, some with lovely crimson speckles and others with petals which seem to have been very lightly dipped in a deep pink-red ink. Every time I go out to look  at them more closely, I remember that the leaves need removing, before wandering off and doing something quite different.


Fifth are the remarkably perky and healthily green Scabious Black Cat plants which have just been left to their own devices on the garden table all Winter. Autumn planted, they have survived so well uncovered through frost, snow and storms that I am now too afraid to move them in case any unfamiliar kindness kills them.


Sixth and last is the very yellow and very cheering crocus which appeared  in the sunlight to make me feel glad.


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A bright splash of yellow

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January 19th: A chilli kind of day

Looking outside the sky is sharply bright and blue and it seems this is a January day in a Spring disguise. But being outside it is keenly cold with a biting  wind. The greenhouse is not particularly welcoming at 5 degrees and even the sun on the glass doesn’t seem to have made much difference. So it is tempting to retreat back to the comfortable warmth of the house, but not for long and only to get extra layers and gloves and hats, because today’s main task is the sowing of seeds: chillies.

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Freshly arrived seed

I learned and even noted down some sensible points  last year: don’t plant too many; stick to just a few varieties and remember you live in a suburban house not a small holding. Of course today, I am going to ignore all this and plant every seed from every packet I over ordered last week from Sea Spring Seeds. In March, April and May when I run out of room it is guaranteed I will be sorry, but not today.

This year have decided to choose varieties with a little more heat, but as always I am tempted most by their looks. I have high hopes for all of them, but especially Joe’s Long Cayenne which was so beautiful and vigorous last Summer in Chelsea Physic garden.


Joe’s Long Cayenne


Five pots and 100 seeds planted. Still six packets to go …

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Early January

The wind is up and the sun is out. It’s still soggy-wet outside, but the light is optimistic and there are signs of pre-Spring growth if you look hard enough. There have been images of snowdrops full in bloom on Twitter for weeks and a peer among the sodden leaves of my cold clay, north facing bed reveals them piercing their way into growth there too. Not fully open, but with spears tipped with white. Hopeful.

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In the greenhouse,  the first iris reticulata Pauline has made its sumptuous and showy appearance and has been rehoused on the kitchen table so we can enjoy its beautiful detail close up. Other Spring bulbs are also growing fast with crocus, muscari and narcissus all pushing up their green, fresh leaves. Maybe a market soon then.

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There might even be some flowers to gather for small posies with the hellebores appearing at the edges of my garden and the straggly, but beautifully scented, winter honeysuckle flowering with all its energy. There are paperwhites too.

Last and most hopefully, some seed can be sown – sweetpeas, chillies and soon tomatoes. Just for a start – a  warm up for later.

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